As Time Goes By
Speaking of firsts, I'm posting drawing #1 from sketchbook #1
Twenty years ago this week I moved to the States to go to grad school; I was twenty-two. I just stumbled upon my old diary, and was reminded of what I did in my first week here.
I spent the first twelve hours staring bug-eyed at MTV, which I’d never seen before; I still remember all the instrumental and vocal parts to Bananarama’s “Venus,” the #1 song in the US that week. My first supermarket experience: disorienting, slightly terrifying. I headed over to the beer section, and being accustomed to tall Indian beers, was a bit puzzled to find them available only in little ‘toy’ cans and bottles. I bought the only two big (‘real’) beers I could find—Schlitz and Colt .45; I haven’t had them since. First great laugh of the week: discovering an invention called the ‘drive-through’; I couldn’t wrap my head around why people needed to be served without even getting out of their cars! I’d have moments of wonder and absurdity like that nearly every single day for the first few years, but I haven’t in a good while. I can—alas—no longer distinguish between the surreal and the real in America.
I arrived here quite broke, having blown all my savings on the air passage. I paid a visit to Goodwill for: a new set of old clothes; two American dictionaries, one regular and one slang; a warped-neck ten-dollar guitar that cost half that much to string and only stayed in tune over a three-fret span; and a small stack of vinyl for a quarter apiece.
I shared an off-campus apartment with three other Indian students. I made $600 a month on my assistantship and paid $100 in rent. My needs were few; we lived like princes. At the end of the year, our slumlord gypped us out of our security deposit and we took him to small claims court. We had no idea how to go about preparing for the ordeal—this money was a fairly big chunk of change for us—so we made a ritual of watching People’s Court together after dinner for a month to ‘learn the ropes’: how to dress and present ourselves, when to speak, what to say.
The day of the hearing, we splurged for a cab to the courthouse. When the judge entered, and we all stood up, one of my housemates leaned over and whispered with a touch of panic in his voice, “But he doesn’t look anything like Wapner!” Our landlord never showed. We were awarded the judgment by default, but we never saw a nickel: he had filed for bankruptcy; it turned out there were dozens of other student tenants in the same boat.
More reminiscing: In a couple of weeks, it’ll be two years since the inception of this blog. My first impulse at the time was two-fold: the amateur musician and music-geek in me wanted to start a music-blog; and having just bought a scanner, the blog would be a convenient way to post drawings from my sketchbooks. But because the timing coincided with the Toronto filmfest, I began by posting film reviews from there, and soon I was (happily) helming a filmblog. I think I’ve posted at least once a week continuously since then except for the three-month hiatus when I hurt my hands.
For me, the best thing about the blog has been the ability to meet and interact with a rich cinephile community and be able to share with and learn from them about cinema. To be honest, I think I’ve been a little reluctant to post about music, indie comics, etc., because I don’t want to kill the cinema discussions which seem to sprout so healthily in the comments here. But I also realize that this is silly of me—I suspect readers will continue to treat this place as a sort of unofficial cinephile forum as they’ve been doing so far, and post ideas and links that are of interest to them here. At any rate, I encourage you, dear reader, to do that. So, one of my new resolutions is to roam culturally farther afield in my posts than I’ve done so far, even if the lion’s share of posts will likely still remain cinema-related.
A great big Thank You to the 35 or so bloggers who were part of the Avant-Garde Blog-A-Thon! The reader traffic for this event turned out to be unexpectedly huge, three to four times that for Showgirls back in January. I spent the last ten days reading and learning and marveling at the blogosphere, the only place where such a flexible and dynamic exchange of critical thought might have been possible. We’re smack dab in the middle of the new cinephile/film-crit picture; let’s make the most of it by sharing, learning, teaching, helping each other. And have ourselves some fun doing it.